Writer Will Self on living with a rare blood disease and looking back on the years of addiction:
What matter, the facts are these: for a decade or so I stuck needles in my arms, my hands, my feet and on one particularly weird occasion my penis. I schlepped across town in all weathers to buy needles and syringes from late-night chemists at Marble Arch and on Willesden Lane – because these were the only outlets in London that sold them over the counter, no questions asked. For a junky who was bad at shooting up I was peculiarly fastidious. I knew all about the risks – from septicaemia to “dirty hits” (when bacteria are injected along with drugs), and viruses such as hepatitis B – initially – then latterly hep’ C and HIV. I took precautions to guard against these maladies, such as using sterile needles wherever possible, and if I couldn’t, cleaning the old “works” with bleach in solution. Most fortuitously I hardly ever shared needles – indeed, I can only remember doing this on two or perhaps three occasions, but it’s significant that one of these involved the flea’s progress of the syringe. “It suck’d me first, and now sucks thee / and in this flea our two bloods mingled be …” – between two fellow-addicts, both of whom subsequently turned out to have hepatitis C – then on to me.